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Invisible Qataris trapped in no man’s land

Qataris refugees trapped between Qatar and Saudi on 14 June, 2017 [Middle East Monitor]
Qataris refugees trapped between Qatar and Saudi on 14 June, 2017 [Middle East Monitor]

A family of eight are trapped in no man’s land between warring neighbours Qatar and Saudi Arabia, it emerged last night. Conditions for members of the Al-Marri family are reaching critical point as they remain stranded without food, shelter or basic provisions while the war of words escalates between their government and Riyadh.

Attempts by relatives to take food and water to the group were thwarted by the Qatari authorities patrolling the country’s only land border with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Now there are fears for the health and security of the family members, including a pregnant woman and several children under the age of seven, plus a teenager who is prone to epilepsy when placed under stressful conditions.

Qataris refugees trapped between Qatar and Saudi on 14 June, 2017 [Middle East Monitor]

Qataris refugees trapped between Qatar and Saudi on 14 June, 2017 [Middle East Monitor]

“They fled Saudi when a travel ban on Qataris was imposed several days ago and all Qatari nationals were ordered to leave,” explained Ali Al-Marri, one of the senior members of the troubled Al-Marri tribe which has up to 5,000 effectively stateless members living in Qatar. The trapped family were all born in Qatar but their citizenship was removed several years ago, leaving them stateless.

“Because they’ve no papers the Qatar Border Control will not allow them to pass,” continued Ali Al-Marri. “They have been left stranded in a tiny strip of land between the two borders and are without any essential food or water. They cannot survive under these conditions.” He appealed to the outside world to help.

Read: Gulf crisis is an effort to ignite a civil war in the region

The majority of the tribe had their citizenship revoked by the Qatari Interior Ministry in 2005. Around 5,000 were largely members of the Al-Ghfran clan within the tribe. Following an outcry by the international community, Qatar restored citizenship to nearly 2,000 of them. While the struggles of stateless communities in other Gulf countries is relatively well documented, the plight of these invisible Qataris is more or less unknown.

By last night, after enquiries by Middle East Monitor, the Qatari border authorities allowed some food and water through to the family, along with a sun canopy.

The diplomatic crisis in the Gulf erupted last week after a group of countries led by Saudi Arabia cut diplomatic ties with Qatar. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain and a number of other countries severed relations after accusing the government in Doha of supporting armed groups and Iran. Qatar vehemently denies the accusations.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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